Government Action on Disability Policy
A Global Survey
Part II - Government Replies as Country Profiles

the Netherlands

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© Dimitris Michailakis 1997

Transmitted by Permanent Mission to the United Nations, New York (8 March 1996)
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General policy

The officially recognized disability policy in the Netherlands is expressed in law, in guidelines adopted by the Government, in policy adopted by NGOs and in policy documents of various Ministries. The emphasis in this national policy - in descending scale - is on: individual support, rehabilitation, prevention, accessibility measures, anti-discrimination law.

Since the adoption of the Rules the Government has supported many campaigns conveying the message of full participation. These include: Dissemination of the Standard Rules; Support of NGOs propagating the message of full participation; A research project with regard to non-discrimination; Integration of the basic principles of the Standard Rules in the long-term programme for an intersectoral policy on the disabled, 1995-1998.

Legislation

The rights of disabled people are protected by a combination of special and general legislation. The judicial mechanism available for the protection of the rights of disabled people is due process (legal remedy through courts). Other non-judicial mechanisms available for the same purpose include: an Ombudsman, a Governmental body (administrative) and independent expert bodies.

The general legislation applies to all categories of disabled persons with respect to: education, employment, the right to marriage, the right to parenthood/family, political rights, access to court-of-law, right to privacy, property rights. The following benefits are guaranteed by law to persons with disabilities: medical care and other health care, training, rehabilitation and counselling, financial security, participation in decisions affecting them.

Since the adoption of the Standard Rules the Act Facilities for the Disabled (WVG), was adopted and came into force in 1994.

Accessibility

There are laws and regulations requiring that: public places are made accessible and that housing is made accessible. Accessibility in the build environment is observed by: national authority, local Governments and by local platforms of the disabled (on a voluntary basis, not regulated by law). The following measures are promoted to facilitate accessibility in the build environment: marking parking areas, installing lifts and accessible toilets, access to public places, improving accessibility in housing, financial support for adapting private buildings and providing for specially adapted motor vehicles. Provisions for special transport are included in the Facilities for the Disabled Act (WVG) obliging municipalities to provide facilities for transporting disabled residents (either by collective transport or by cash payments). According to the Government interlocal transport (long distance) can often be a problem. Special transport is available for medical treatment, education, work, recreational purpose. When planning to build accessible environments the most difficult obstacles are attitudinal factors, economic/budgetary factors, lack of legislation and regulations and lack of enforcement mechanisms. There is no disability awareness component sufficiently incorporated in the training of architects and construction engineers. In the very near future, as stated by the Government, university readers in accessibility start working at the Technical Universities of Delft and Eindhoven.

Sign language for deaf people has no officially recognized status so far. A Committee on Sign Language is working on this issue. However, it is used as the first language in education of deaf people.
There are Government measures for encouraging media to make their information services available, e.g. sign language of certain tv-programmes. The following measures are being taken to make other forms of public information services available: 1. Advisory service for the disabled with the Netherlands Telephone Company, 2. Television services for the mentally disabled. The following services are provided in order to facilitate information and communication between persons with disabilities and other persons: literature in Braille/tape, news magazines on tape/Braille, sign language interpretation available on request, easy readers for persons with mental disabilities, electronic reading of daily news papers and news magazines (via a computer) and text-telephone for the deaf.

Organizations of persons with disabilities

There are two national umbrella organizations: 1. The organization of the physically disabled, 2. The organization for the mentally disabled. All relevant organizations are represented cooperating closely. According to the decree established by the Interministerial Steering Group on policy for the disabled - an advisory body to the Dutch Government - The Group maintains contacts with the umbrella organizations of the disabled. Disability organizations are often consulted when laws and regulations with a disability aspect are being prepared. This occurs at national, regional and local level. The Government provides financial and consultative support to organizations. Disabled persons participate to a limited extent in judiciary, to some extent in Government, legislature and in political parties and to a great extent in NGOs. The disabled persons' organizations have the role to: advocate rights and improved services, to mobilize disabled persons, to identify needs and priorities, to participate in the planning, implementation and evaluation of services and measures, to contribute to public awareness and to promote services.

Co-ordination of work

The national co-ordinating committee is reporting to the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport but also to other relevant Ministries. The committee also submits reports to a sub-council of the Cabinet. The committee includes representatives of several Ministries. No representatives of NGOs, and of the private sector are included. Organizations of disabled people are included, having a consultative status. The Government expects the committee to participate in policy development and to perform other tasks. For instance, to identify gaps in legislature and eliminate obstacles experienced by the disabled. The co-ordinating committee has had the following effects: improved co-ordination of measures/programmes, improved legislation, improved integration of responsibility, more effective use of resources and improved promotion of public awareness.

The adoption of the Standard Rules has led to a rethinking of the approach to disability policy.



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